Monday, August 12, 2013

His: City to Surf

A map of the City2 Surf Course
        After months of training and preparation race day was finally here! 

The City2Surf is one of the world's largest running races with approximately 85,000 entrants. The 14km/9 mile course weaves its way from downtown Sydney through the suburbs, near the harbour then meanders up Heartbreak Hill. After climbing this hill you hit the half way point. The course then heads towards Bondi Beach passing through residential areas and finally the course dips down to near sea level and finishes near the iconic Bondi Beach.

The Start of the race near Hyde Park
        The race started at 8:05am but I got there nice and early at 6:20am as I had to travel into the city and wanted to avoid the crowds. Getting there early allowed me to wander around and soak in the atmosphere. I lined up in my starting corral (which held about 5000 people) and was able to get a spot right at the front. The starting corrals started to fill up a little after 7am so I was glad I got there early for a good spot. I started talking to a guy who was standing next to me who had run the race five times before and was originally from New York. Talking to him helped pass the time. Not long before the race started one of the newspaper reporters came over and interviewed me and asked where I had come from and why I had chosen to run in the City2Surf. I'm hoping that my story will be in the paper but even if I don't it was nice to be interviewed.

Running through the William Street Tunnel
           At 8:05am the gun went off and we were underway. I had never run with so many people before but everyone was respectful of each other and I was able to keep up a good pace without having to weave and dodge others. The course started downhill but very quickly headed uphill and through a tunnel which I really enjoyed as we are not able to run in tunnels near home. The hills continued and my leg calf started to cramp so I walked a little bit to see if that would stop the cramps. Walking didn't make the cramps any better so I continued to jog and hoped it would work itself out and go away. Thankfully a few minutes later it went away and I had no further issues with cramps or joint pains.

Rose Bay (just before Heartbreak Hill)
   The atmosphere of the event was electric as there were people lined up all along the route to cheer on their family members, friends, or whoever ran past. Others were hanging out on balconies having a great time, playing music and supporting those who ran by. There were bands every so often so there was plenty to keep you entertained and motivated even if you didn't bring an MP3 player along with you. There were even a few locals who brought out their garden hoses to spray down passing runners as it was fairly warm. It really did feel like a community event as everyone came out to see the runners and support them. The volunteers and police also cheered us on and that made the event even better.

Looking down Heartbreak Hill with the city skyline behind it.
After 5km/3.1 miles the course flattened out and ran along the harbour. It was a welcome break after all of the hills and gave me a chance to recover, drink a few cups of Gatorade and get ready for the long climb ahead. Heartbreak Hill is tough as it climbs 80m/250ft in about a kilometre/0.6 miles but thankfully wasn't as bad as I expected. I just took it easy and walked on some of the steeper sections so I wouldn't over exert myself. I passed a bunch of people on the hill so I must have done something right. Not bad for someone who trained on flat ground and wasn't able to train on hills like this.

View of Sydney Harbour from the 10km mark
The top of Heartbreak Hill rewarded me with wonderful views of the harbour beside me, the Pacific Ocean in front of me and the city skyline behind me. Seeing the skyline in the distance gave me a real indication of how far I had already traveled and gave me a real sense of accomplishment even though I had only completed half of the distance. The next part of the course went through residential areas and I was able to get glimpses of the ocean and the city skyline as I headed towards Bondi Beach. At one point near one of the drink areas there was a fantastic view of the city skyline and I took a few moments to grab a couple of photos. The finish line was at the bottom of a large hill so I wasn't able to see it until I was about 2km/1.2 miles away.

Descending into Bondi, just a couple of kms to go!
After 12kms of rolling hills, wonderful scenery and  wonderful supporters it was bittersweet to see Bondi. It was nice to be near the end as I was starting to get pretty worn out but it was a little sad as this wonderful experience was quickly drawing to a close. I had planned to soak in every ounce of the experience and I had succeeded in doing so but even so I wished it had lasted a little longer. I had waited for this day for so long and was worried that I would be disappointed as I had hyped myself up so much but the event was so much better than I had ever hoped for.

Finally getting ready to cross the finish line!
The course designers are a little cruel as you see the finish line well before you get to cross it. You end up running through the town of Bondi, pass the finish line and go another 400m/.25 miles before you perform a u-turn and go to the finish line. As you run along the last part of the course towards the finish line there are people lined up everywhere and the noise from the people screaming and yelling is deafening. I will never be an Olympic athlete but the atmosphere of this area with so many people cheering you on must be almost identical and I felt like a world champion as I ran as fast as I could towards the finish line. After the finish I was able to stop, collect my finisher's medal, and slowly make my way to the bus line that would return me to the city.

      After picking up my finishers medal I had planned to walk the 3km/2 miles to the railway station as I thought the line for the buses would be way too long. However I was able to get on the bus right away and get on the train shortly afterwards with no hassle. The race was very well organized and they made getting back into the city as smooth as silk. I had such a great time and would do it again if I could. It was without doubt the best race I had ever run in and it will take a lot for another race to top this one. If anyone has ever considered participating in the race I strongly encourage you to sign up and run it next year as you will have the time of your life.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Sean

    You really ought to send this story to the Sydney morning herald

    It is an inspiration to all


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